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Starrunner

Reflections from an older person on gay and transgender rights

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As some may have noticed, I'be been thinking lately about the differences in the levels of acceptance between gays and lesbians, and the trans community. Despite some of the commonalities in our struggles, I've lived to witness significant differences. Here in Canada, same-sex marriages were legalized a dozen years ago. You can walk down a street in my neighbourhood and see a number of gay couples walking hand-in-hand and no even notices or gives a damn. That's how it should be. At the same time, I have attended several vigils for transgenders in the past year who were hospitalized from violent assaults. It breaks my heart to see they still risk life and limb today just struggling to be who they are. While gay rights these days are mainstream to the point of being vanilla, the transgender population is still struggling for acceptance.


I spent my younger years working in a very conservative government environment. Gays and lesbians could at least try and hide their sexual orientation, but the problem was we weren't often successful. If you weren't married, didn't have a partner of the opposite sex, or if you didn't join in on the cat-calling or ogling the opposite sex, then you were automaticaĺly under suspection of being a fag. And if you kept your personal life private, it pretty much confirmed those suspicions, and you were ostricized, criticized, passed over promotions, and ignored.


I tried to 'fit in' and drop the voice an octave and act masculine, but it never lasted for long. I always blew it in moments when I forgot to keep up the charade and one of those gay tendencies would appear. I could never keep it up for long. There were some people who I strongly suspected were gay, yet we never really talked or acknowledged each other because if we outed ourselves and turned out to be wrong, then the exposure would have been devastating. And so we lived in silence and loneliness. When my partner committed suicide, I was so afraid I would be tempted to join him rather than continue living in such torment alone.


One of the things I remember most about accepting transgenders occurred about twenty years ago when I was on the Gay Pride committee organizing the annual parade. We were approached by several transgenders who felt we weren't being inclusive. They wanted to see 'transgenders' included in the event and in the name of the parade. At the time, it just hadn't been something we had ever been asked to consider. It turned out to be highly controversial with some committee members firmly opposed to the modifications, some unsure and some who were supportive. There were horrible comments made they 'they should go have there own parade' or that they were demanding 'special rights.' After many passionate debates in the community, it was voted to go ahead with the first Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Parade. And I was proud.


I remeber being at a meeting the following year and a person from an Aboriginal youth group said that they preferred to identify themselves as 'two-spirited' and someone suggested adding another 'T' to the LGBT acronym. Someone laughed and asked how many f*cking letters of the alphabet were we going to need to include everyone with their demands. Everyone laughed. I responded we'll use up as many f*cking letters as we need until every group and individual in this city feels valued, represented and cared for. The laughter stopped.


I don't go out to gay bars, but I have a friend who is transgender who stops in at them ocassionally with her transgender friends. She says whenever they find a spot in the bar to drink, the gays and lesbians will still go out of their way to avoid them. They'll clear a path around them so they don't have to walk directly past them or make eye contact with them. Not all of them, of course, but she says it's noticeable. It's sad to think that a group like ours, that has faced such horrendous hatred and discrimination throughout our lifetime, would inflict the same treatment on other marginalized groups. We don't arrive until we all arrive.


I was at a pro-choice demonstration last Tuesday, after it was revealed that women are being harassed, spat upon and sworn at by pro-lifers as they enter our abortion clinic here in Ottawa. It was inspiring seeing so many young people present, people of colour, queers and seniors. I think we work best when we support each other's causes: middle class white feminists supporting black queer women, gays and lesbians supporting transgenders, hetero males supporting feminists. The fight does not belong to the groups who come under attack, it belongs to all of us.


Carry it on.
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Comments

  1. AdorableRabbit's Avatar
    Nicely put!

    Once again I'm humbled and impressed by your generosity of spirit and open mindedness.

    I am ashamed to admit that I had a real problem wrapping my head around trans people for many years. I had mixed and mostly negative feelings combined of not being able to understand the sense of body dysphoria, a personal sense of discomfort around body modification, a socialized sense of revulsion around gender role transgression, and a very selfish sense that trans folks were somehow co-opting/undermining/embarrassing/making life even more complicated and harder for LGB folks...

    It's taken a long while of exposure to some actual trans folks to get me to understand a little bit, but yeah it's clear we're all in this together.

    Thanks again for the thoughtful post!
  2. Tommycombs's Avatar
    I'm a straight guy but I've always been inclusive and accepting of others, or at least I hope I've come off that way. Growing up in the 1980s with this weird diaper/ baby thing on my mind all the time made me feel like a freak. Actually it was a bit more profound than that. Back then, I thought I was the only one and I considered myself an abomination.

    As a teenager in those days, everybody made fun of gays. Myself (sadly) included. Lots of fag jokes, of course. But while I didn't find homosexuality appealing personally, I knew just as my abnormal diaper desires, that this was not something these people were choosing, but something that was just hardwired into their brains. I understood that concept pretty easily. Actually, I was glad I was straight because being gay or trans on top of my already weird secret would have complicated things even more in my poor head so I feel sympathy for anyone that does go through that.

    In high school, I was one weird duck. Didn't really have any friends and I did not find common ground with my peers. I was itching to drop out and run off into the mountains (like that idiot from "Into the Wild") and my high school decided to enroll me in a new alternative classroom thing they were trying out in the early 90s. So I found myself in the STAR program (Students Together Achieving Results). Our classroom had sofas and big comfy chairs. It was more of a place for the rejects to find themselves and get an education. At risk students like myself. One of the teachers will forever live on in my heart and memory.

    We just called her Zinn. She had hair down to her butt. Her classroom looked like a TGIFridays. She collected odd and funny things. The ceiling had Pee-Wee Herman and Freddy Krueger dolls hanging from it. A gorilla, an inflatable dinosaur. You get the picture. But she was the coolest adult I'd ever met. Her son was my age and also in the class. He was gay and she was very accepting of him and open to differences. I felt like a worthless out of place freak and she saw enough value in me to convince me to finish high school. I wouldn't have graduated without her confidence in me.

    I kept in touch with her over the years and she was always like a second mother to me. In 2011 she died and it sent a shockwave through me that still stings as I type this. I realized with my high sensitivity and fear of revealing my ABDL nature to the world, that she would have accepted me. She would have given me a hug and accepted me. That realization felt good but painful at the same time. I realized that if she could accept me, why couldn't I? She always saw value and good in me. So a new mantra I've been repeating to myself is "Be like Zinn".

    We all judge people. It's a basic instinct to tell us whether someone is safe or a danger to us. When we encounter someone unusual, we should really ask ourselves if those differences are really bad. If they are unusual but you can't see anything harmful in their behavior, then be like Zinn.
  3. CanadianGal's Avatar
    This blog post is so thought provoking. I reside in a city that has a Gay Pride parade. I have never attended though. Not to say that I am not an alley, I just don't attend any parade really. I think this world needs more people like you.
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